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This is not a pretty part of American history — some of the things you read here will make you angry or ashamed; some will turn your stomach.

He showed me that knowing the past is critical to making sense of the present.It’s important to understand, however, that violent prejudice is not limited to the Ku Klux Klan or any other white supremacist organization.Every year, murders, arsons, bombings and assaults are committed by people who have no ties to an organized group, but who share their extreme hatred.Today, it seems incredible that an organization so violent, so opposed to the American principles of justice and equality, could twice in the nation’s history have held such power.How did the Ku Klux Klan — one of the nation’s first terrorist groups — so instantly seize the South in the aftermath of the Civil War? How could it have risen so rapidly to power in the 1920s and then so rapidly have lost that power?The bare facts about the birth of the Ku Klux Klan and its revival half a century later are baffling to most people today.

Little more than a year after it was founded, the secret society thundered across the war-torn South, sabotaging Reconstruction governments and imposing a reign of terror and violence that lasted three or four years.

Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others, I saw the Ku Klux Klan as an all-too visible power in many of the places we went to organize voter registration and protest segregation.

We knew what the Klan was, and often we had a pretty good idea of who its members were.

The historical essays in this magazine explain the roots of racism and prejudice which sustain the Ku Klux Klan.

As a young civil rights activist working alongside John Lewis, Andrew Young, the late Dr.

Now, of course, I turn on my television set and see people in Klan robes or military uniforms again handing out hate literature on the town square. This report was produced by the Southern Poverty Law center’s Klanwatch Project.